Keep educating yourselves, entrepreneurs

It’s only through big dreams you conceive that you realise your own insignificance. I have big dreams, I’m sure most entrepreneurs can relate to that. But sometimes, when we stare ahead into our dreams, we feel so small in comparison. Suddenly our confidence shatters, our knowledge seemed limited in comparison. We began to adopt an illusion that we can’t possibly achieve what we thought we could, before having those big dreams.

And that my friends, is where education comes in. I’m not talking about formal education, you know, schools, teachers, textbooks, exams, pencil and paper. We seem to harbour the same perspective on education, where we are given some material to absorb, an exam after that and a final grade as a proof that we have learnt something. Personally, I don’t believe this is education at all. If the only thing you get out from an exam is your final mark, then you’re not really educating yourself, you’re just a great exam problem solver with good luck.

As an entrepreneur, you have to learn everything even remotely close to your field of expertise, because you have no field of expertise. Entrepreneurs are dynamic people, with dynamic ideas, with dynamic businesses, dynamic roles to fulfil, dynamic hats to wear. So how can your knowledge, education and skills stay stagnant? Or focused on that one little speck in the world? We are not experts, we are not professionals, we are entrepreneurs, we have to learn everything.

Truthfully, the reason I started this blog is that I wanted to learn more about the blogosphere, the social media marketing, the SEO, the google analytics and all that besides connecting with other entrepreneurs. And I am pleased to say that my knowledge in this field is increasing day after day, and someday I know it will be helpful to my business. The point of the story here is, education takes form by doing, applying and not only reading. Maybe think of reading this way, reading is just a snapshot of what to expect when you are doing something. Reading is not learning, it’s only a manual, a how to guide, you will never really learn without doing. You can read all you want on swimming, but if you never swim, you will never swim. And this rule, applies to almost everything in life. ( Not everything, since everything has its exceptions )

So what can we learn? What can we educate ourselves on? Here are some of my opinions on what we should educate ourselves on in this changing, fast-paced world of entrepreneurship:

1) Design

Design is the new cool, believe me or not. I’m in college right now and I can testify the fact that most design students and arts students are looked down by other college majors. But that doesn’t change the fact that design is important. Everything in this world consist of a design. Every single product, every single system in the world. For entrepreneurs, innovation is our lifeblood. And how do we innovate? We innovate by changing the design of our products to change the final output and function. I don’t mean you have to be well-versed in art history or books like 100 ways to use a pencil, but having some knowledge on how to design, how to test your designs, how to adopt a right designing mindset and applying the design principles, how to create a prototype is very useful in the future, especially considering how big 3D printing is going to be in the future. I know Alison offers a free online course on design and maybe you could download a few design books and start reading and APPLYING them.

2) Communication

Communication is a very important aspect. You have to learn to communicate to anyone, and speak their language. Since as an entrepreneur, you have to work with different people. You have to be able to communicate in their language, and in language I don’t mean a foreign language, although having an extra foreign language would be useful considering globalisation, but language as in for example, the marketing language in general. When you talk to lawyers, you need to know the legal language, when you talk to VC’s, you need to talk in their language. Get the point? If you want to build partnerships and collaborate with people outside your expertise, which you don’t really have, the fastest way is to speak their language. How do I do it? Usually when I talk to someone, I try asking questions and listen to them talk for about 5 to 10 minutes before I start talking. This is a period of observation where I try to get the gist of their language, figure out their communication style and their flow before I start talking to them, to make sure that both of us are on the same wavelength. Now I know most entrepreneurs have the urge to tell almost everyone they meet about their awesome business ideas, I’m guilty of it as well, you have to realise that unless you’re speaking their language, they’re not going to understand you. For example, if you’re building a fashion blog and you’re more into the marketing side of the business, don’t talk to someone for example a student about how your SEO rankings and all those technical terms which they don’t understand. If someone doesn’t understand you, how are they going to marvel at your awesome business idea? How are you even going to share your vision?

3) Technology

Technology as in how to use technology tools. Unless you have a degree in computer science or software engineering, let’s face it, we will never really know as much as them as to how to code. Yes you can learn how to code, but it will take up too much of your time if you want to work on your business idea. Now I understand that most people have seen the success stories of tech entrepreneurs and their ultra cool high tech business ideas, but you need to realise that technology ultimately is a tool. Technology helps you achieve a final outcome, it itself is not an outcome. As a college entrepreneur, I faced countless pressure to have a tech startup or something alone the lines of that. But you have to realise that entrepreneurship is more than technology. Although Mark Zuckerberg did create Facebook, he did it to connect to people, and it was through technology ( his tool ) that he was able to achieve his final outcome. As entrepreneurs, we are supposed to be resourceful, learning how tools work is not as important as learning how we can use these tools, unless you want to innovate in that area. So entrepreneurs, don’t be scared of technology or feel pressured to join the industry, understand that ultimately technology is just a tool like your garden shovel. We don’t need to understand the tool, we just have to know how to use them. And how do we learn? We learn by using them.

4) General knowledge

By this, I mean anything you are interested in, be it coffee, be it running, be it singing, anything. Yes, anything you’re interested in. General knowledge does not mean the news in this context, it’s just whatever you feel like learning. You know why? Because ultimately, we are entrepreneurs. We are constantly searching for the next big thing, the next big opportunity. And how can we think of ways to innovate something when we have no idea what that something is? So next time someone thinks your random interests in random things are dumb and try to discourage you from learning it, just smile and secretly murmur to yourself, ” Fuck you, I’m an entrepreneur. ”

Until next time. Please leave a comment or share this with your friends if you like it. Or feel free to argue with me or voice up your opinions on anything, I’m just eager to learn anything new. 🙂

The flaws of a business degree in business school

I’m doing a business degree. And honestly, I did it because I had to go to college, or my family would stop supporting me financially and cut me off from my family. I knew since I was 15 that I wanted to become an entrepreneur, but I struggled back and forth between deciding to become an entrepreneur or involve myself in some highly regarded profession, *cough* medicine. ( I was always regarded as smart and got amazingly good grades even though I didn’t put much effort in it, which was a bit unfair to be honest ). But anyway, I received career advice from our high school’s student advisor, and told him about my dreams and aspirations for the future as an entrepreneur. And the conclusion I got out from him was, get a business degree, since it’s the closest thing in college to entrepreneurship. So I did.

And the truth is, it’s nothing even near there. College and universities, are a place for grooming professionals and high-performing employees. Especially business school, where you are groomed into becoming either a business consultant, an accountant, a manager, a marketing personnel, a financial analyst or somewhere along the lines of that. You are groomed into a certain way of thinking, a certain way of behaving, and you get to learn a certain way of solving a problem. Very creative and out of the box.

I don’t mean to criticise the business degree, and I have to admit there are some benefits I get out from it, but I’ll talk about it later, right now, I’ll just focus on what’s wrong with a business degree in a business school. This is strictly my own opinion as an entrepreneur who is doing a business degree, so feel free to voice your own opinions and argue with me.

What is wrong with a business degree?

1) The curriculum.

Let me take an example. I’m doing a management unit this semester, and it comprises of all the flaws I can point out in business degrees in most universities. Did you know that in management, usually the textbook and the material that we are learning are at least 20 years behind from the current business world? We are learning and absorbing material, which is outdated and no longer relevant in the business world. Yes, there are some management principles which may be useful but this doesn’t shade the fact that we are learning outdated and irrelevant material! How is this possible? Initial radical and cutting-edge management theories come from entrepreneurs, which if the theories and principles are proven to be efficient and useful would be adopted by the corporate world, and then the whole business world, and only after that the academic world adopts it and carries out research to validate and prove the theory. That is the only useful information which I learnt from all of my management lectures. So how do we know we’re studying outdated material? Well, just think of who writes our management textbooks, is it a fellow academic who has never been in the business world or a real-life entrepreneur? You get my point. Entrepreneurs should be learning from other entrepreneurs about cutting edge management theories to get ahead in the business world. Or better, develop your own management style and theory, since management theories basically originate from other fellow entrepreneurs, what makes you think you can’t do the same thing, or even better?

2) The way we learn.

We listen to the lecturer during lectures, we download lecture slides online, we memorise the important points where the lecturer told us to do so and we regurgitate it during exams and hopefully we would get a passing mark. That my friends, is how you get you pass your business exams. Of course there are assignments, but basically it’s just a theoretical question on paper, where you have to answer individually or in groups, on paper, and then you submit it to get a mark. We are learning how to spot key points, how to memorise and how to answer questions. The way we are learning is mostly memorisation! Yes, reading and lectures are important to deliver a specific concept or theory, but why are we applying it on paper? Using my last example again, management. We are answering questions about management on a piece of paper. Are we managing papers or are we managing real people? Shouldn’t the final exam be something like, ( fanciful thinking here) here is a group of employees, applying all the management principles you learn or the ones you think of, improve their work performance by 20% by the end of next month. Then, write a brief summary of what techniques you used. Shouldn’t management be like this? Letting students apply the theories, cross out the irrelevant ones in the teaching syllabus and then work on discovering new management theories instead of trying to proof all the old ones? And maybe for finance it could be like this, applying all your financial principles learnt, grow your investment portfolio by 20% from the start of the semester, you may record all your calculations and the choices you made, but final marks will be based on your investment decisions. You don’t even have to use real money since there are simulation softwares online for free. This way the people who actually graduate from a finance major in college would be the ones who actually know how to manage your investment portfolio, since they are doing it so well for themselves. The point here is, business schools are too lazy to think of ways to improve the system so they follow a traditional spoon feed, drill and regurgitate method.

Right now, these are the main flaws which I find in my business degree, so to summarise what I have been saying:

1) The textbooks are outdated

2) The learning and teaching method is inefficient

3) Too much emphasise on route memorisation and problem solving on paper

4) The benchmarks for assessing one’s business skills is ineffective

Basically, the whole business education process and curriculum in business school is wrong in my opinion. These are the flaws of a business degree, and I’ll talk about the benefits of a business degree in my next blog post, feel free to comment and share your opinions with me.